The owner of the Montreal restaurant where several people contracted E. coli from tartare is blaming the supplier for delivering contaminated meat.

''I want to make sure this never happens again,'- Jason Masso, owner of Marché 27'

What causes an E. coli infection?

  • E. coli infections are often caused by eating contaminated food including under-cooked beef. 
  • Food can be contaminated when animals are slaughtered or processed, or when it is handled by a person infected with E. coli, or from cross-contamination because of unsanitary food handling practices.

  • E. coli infections can also spread easily from person to person.

What are the symptoms? 

  • Symptoms include cramps, vomiting, diarrhea.

  • Symptoms usually start 3 to 4 days after exposure, but the incubation period can range from 1 to 10 days.

  • Severe cases can lead to permanent kidney damage and even death.
  • If you think you are infected with E. coli bacteria or any other food borne illness, do not prepare food for other people. It's also a good idea to keep pets away from food storage and preparation areas.

Source: Public Health Agency of Canada

Jason Masso said he's been serving tartare — a raw meat dish — at Marché 27 for six years and has never had a problem. 

But in December, seven people fell ill after eating Masso's tartare.

One of the victims was Val D'Or resident Isabelle St-Jean.

She told CBC Daybreak host Mike Finnerty that she had been sick for several days and went for the hospital for tests, and that's when she found out she had E. coli poisoning.  

"They saw that I had E. coli ... I was sick to my stomach for one week," she said.

For his part, Masso said his restaurant, located in the plateau neighbourhood, has passed all inspections. He said he wants to reassure the public that he has addressed the problem and his restaurant is safe. 

"I want to make sure this never happens again," Masso told CBC News.

"There's a lady that was hospitalized ... like critically ill — that to me is extremely important."

Meat supplier says it's not at fault

Viandes Décarie, the company that supplied the meat to the restaurant, says it's not to blame for the contamination.

'Our company is not involved in any way in the cases described,'- Viandes Décarie, meat supplier

Officials of the company, which is a division of Colabor Group, released a statement Wednesday afternoon.

"Two investigations conducted jointly by the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) and the MAPAQ (the agriculture, fisheries and food ministry of Quebec) have led to the conclusion that, based on analysis performed to date, our company is not involved in any way in the cases described and is therefore not held liable in this matter," the statement said.

Agriculture ministry under fire 

Although Masso has admitted that his restaurant was at the centre of the E. coli poisonings, the agriculture ministry is refusing to confirm that information. 

The ministry confirmed that it had traced all seven instances back to the same restaurant, but it has refused to release the name of the restaurant or even the city that it's located in.

A ministry spokesperson explained that in this type of investigation, the restaurant cannot be named in case the file goes to court.

Now a patients' advocacy group is criticizing the ministry for holding back that information. It says the public has a right to know where the E. coli was contracted.

"[This] information should be known to the public because it is of the utmost public interest, if not health hazard interest," said Paul Brunet, the chair of Montreal's Conseil pour la protection des malades.

marché 27 sign

Marché 27, in Montreal's Plateau neighbourhood, is reassuring its customers that its tartares are safe to eat once again. (Marché 27)

The ministry of agriculture says it has done a rigorous inspection of the restaurant and the investigation is still underway.

A ministry spokesperson said there is no risk to the public at the moment. 

All you need to know: The risks of tartare

  • Tartare is typically made with minced or ground beef and served raw.
  • Hazards present in raw beef including Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria. 
  • The dish is mixed with various ingredients including egg yolks, which also have a risk of Salmonella contamination.
  • Health Canada recommends people with weakened immune systems, the elderly and pregnant women avoid eating tartare.

Source: Centre for Public Health, University of Guelph